City to get another chance at buying State School property

CONCORD — The state will renew its effort in the coming months to sell the site on North Main Street that formerly housed the Laconia State School, Michael Connor, deputy commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) with responsibility for property and purchasing, said yesterday.

The sale of the property was included in the 2016-2017 state budget adopted by the Legislature last month. The revenue estimates for the biennium include $2-million in proceeds from the transaction. In 2012 an appraisal prepared for the state by the Bureau of Right-of-Way of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation placed the value of the site at $2.16 million.

Mayor Ed Engler, who has favored purchasing the site, yesterday reaffirmed that he would advocate acquiring it if it were offered to the city for its appraised value or less.

The terms of the proposed transaction are stipulated in the companion bill to the budget. The transaction would be subject to the requirements of RSA 4:40, the statute governing the sale or lease of state property, which stipulates that it must be first be offered to the municipality or county where it is located. But, the transaction would be exempt from the review and approval of both the Council on Resources and Development, a panel representing executive departments and agencies, and the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, consisting of four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives. Instead, the sale would require the approval of only the Governor and Executive Council.

"Something has to happen," Connor said yesterday, who added that the first step would be to hire a broker and then to approach the city. "There is a lot to talk about," he said.

The property consists of 202 acres bounded by North Main Street to the east, Meredith Center Road and Eastman Road to the north and Ahern State Park to the west and south and divided roughly in half by Right Way Path. Among the 26 buildings on the site, the appraiser found less than a handful salvageable and estimated the cost of demolishing the rest at more than $2 million.

An initial assessment of the site by Credere, LLC of Westbrook, Maine in 2010 indicated that there were typical but significant environmental concerns, most of them confined to the 75 acres housing the buildings. As the party responsible for the environmental contamination the state cannot qualify for federal funding to address it. But, the city qualifies for funding to assess the extent of the contamination and if were to acquire the site, would be eligible for funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to address contamination.

The state first sought to sell the property in 2011, offering it to the city for $10-million. However, soon afterwards two appraisals, one by the state and another by the city, found it was worth about a fifth that much. In April, 2012 the Laconia City Council offered to purchase the property, together with the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, an abutting 10.2-acre parcel owned by the state and leased to the city for 99 years, for $2.16 million. The state did not respond to the offer. The property has been on the open market ever since, but the state has received no offers for it.

Connor said that the state spends approximately $330,000 annually to maintain and police the property, apart from the cost of any urgent repairs like the replacement of a failing roof.

Council asking public to weigh-in on when noise becomes too big a nuisance

LACONIA — The City Council will once again solicit opinion from the public about several changes to the local ordinances restricting noise and licensing loudspeakers proposed by the Committee on Government Operations and Ordinances during "an informal public input session" when it meets on Tuesday, Oct. 13, beginning at 7 p.m..

The proposed changes were introduced two weeks ago and, because there are fines associated with violating it, was required to undergo a "first reading" and public hearing, which was requested to be scheduled for October 13.

However, before the council addressed the issue, Don Richards, a resident of Timber Lane at The Weirs who has served on the Planning Board for the past 18 years, characterized the proposed changes as relaxing the restrictions on noise. In particular, he told the council that by expending the hours for outdoor loudspeakers the proposal took "a negative direction to the homeowners and condo owners and other residents. If you don't live in an area where noise is a problem" he explained, "it can seem like a light problem." He said that he preferred the ordinance as it stands with more effective enforcement. The proposal, he said caters to businesses, "but completely throws residents and homeowners under the bus."
When the council turned to the proposal, Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), who chairs the committee that recommended it, expressed reluctance to proceed to a first reading and schedule a public hearing without seeking further input from the public. She moved to table the resolution to proceed to a first reading and public hearing. Instead she and Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) asked to hold "an informal public input session" on the changes.

The noise ordinance, chapter 167 of the city code, stipulates that is unlawful for any person or corporation to make "any loud, unreasonable noise or any noise which would annoy disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety, convenience, welfare and prosperity of a reasonable person" within the city limits.
The committee suggested two major additions to the ordinance. The first, which would apply to apply to residential and commercial properties throughout the city would specify that a noise "plainly audible," in the judgment of the police, within 50 feet of the property line of the property where it originates, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday would represent a violation. The proposal closely echoes ordinances in Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth. The second change would apply to persons "yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing in the street, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., would also constitute a violation. This change would to address unruly crowds spilling out of bars and clubs at closing time.
The committee also proposed extending the hours for the operation of outdoor sound equipment. Currently, outdoor loudspeakers cannot be operated later than 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The committee recommended extending the hours to 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively, and allowing loudspeakers to operate until 11 p.m. on the weekday night before federal holidays.
The committee will also recommend stiffening the penalties of repeated violations of the noise ordinance, by fining violators $100 for the first offense. $250 for the second offense and $500 for all subsequent offenses. The ordinance currently provides for a fine of not more than $250 for all offenses.

Gilford super retiring at end of school year

GILFORD — School Superintendent Kent Hemingway, who has spent the last five of his 38 years in the public school system at Gilford, has announced that he will retire at the close of the school year.

"I knew it was good," Hemingway said of the Gilford School District, "but not this good." He credited the support of the entire community, the School Board, the teaching staff, district employees and "the 1,208 kids who want to learn and grow" with making the last years of his career enjoyable and rewarding.

Hemingway graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1976 and that fall was teaching and coaching in Tamworth, where he rented the house which is now his home. He became a teaching principal in Harrisville then an assistant at West Yarmouth, Mass. before returning to New Hampshire for good as principal of Merrimack Valley Middle School. From 1991 until 2005 he served as principal of Kimball School, in Concord then spent the next six years as assistant superintendent of the Rochester School District before succeeding his friend and colleague Paul DiMinico as superintendent in Gilford.

"I am proud that our district has grown in its ability to deliver a 21st century education, with enhanced digital applications, personalization and engagement with the community. I have been honored, " he continued, "to have had the opportunity to contribute to this effort."

A member of the adjunct faculty of Plymouth State University, where he earned advanced degrees, since 2003, Hemingway said that "I don't intend to stop working, but added he looked forward to a retirement of "a little bit of work and a lot of family, " caring for his parents and entertaining his four grandchildren.

In a prepared statement Karen Thurston, who chairs the School Board, said that the board "appreciates all that Kent has done for the Gilford School District and while we are sad to see him go, we wish him the best in his retirement. She said that the board has approached the New Hampshire School Boards Association to conduct a search for Hemingway's successor and will solicit input from the community in the appointment process.